Text: 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Hebrews 10:23-27
Rev. Kelly R. Jackson
3 Thoughts to consider:
- What is the Bible for?
- Why should we come together for study (church vs. Bible class)?
- What you get in Bible class that you don’t get in Sunday morning service (shaping vs. shaking)
Why do you go to church on Sunday morning? Ask yourself that question and then explore the answer that you gave when you get to the end of this lesson. In my time as a teacher of the Word of God and now a preacher, I’ve found that people come to church for a myriad of different reasons, but often they’re coming to church on Sunday looking for some things that aren’t there.
Seems odd that a preacher would say that there’s anything that can’t be found at church on Sunday morning, huh? It would seem that whatever there is for God’s people to hear could be heard on Sunday mornings. However, there’s more for God’s people to hear concerning what He has for them and how He wants them to live and the vast majority of it does not happen on Sunday morning.
Some things we could actually understand better if we’d just learn basic definitions of words. In the dictionary, the word “church” is defined as “a building for public Christian worship” or “a body of Christians worshiping in a particular building or constituting one congregation”. But a class is defined as “a group of students meeting regularly to study a subject under the guidance of a teacher” or “a meeting of a group of students for instruction”. Based on a basic understanding of the English language, you can’t get out of church what you get out of Bible class.
What is the Bible for? (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
Let’s begin with the basics. To understand what we’re studying, we first need to know where the Bible came from and what it’s meant for. Amongst other passages in the Bible, this particular one in 2 Timothy gives us a complete understanding:
16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works
Taken from what are the Pastoral Epistles (1 & 2 Timothy, Titus), the Apostle Paul was addressing Timothy on the role of a pastor. In order for any preacher to properly preach and teach the Word of God, He must not only understand where God’s Word comes from (Verse 16; see also 2 Peter 1:20-21), but he must also understand what it’s for. The Bible was written by men that were inspired of God. Man didn’t write the Bible based on his own intellect. Therefore, man shouldn’t attempt to use his intellect to manipulate God’s Word to fit his agenda, lifestyle or circumstances. Once we understand and accept that God’s Word comes directly from Him, we must learn what the application of that Word should be. Even though Paul wrote this letter to Timothy, the directions for proper application of God’s Word are for all of us.
When Verse 17 speaks about “the man of God” being “perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works”, while this letter is written to Timothy the young pastor, it’s meant for all that are disciples of Christ. In The Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-20, we are all commanded to “Go ye therefore and teach”. As men and women of God, we must use His Word as a guide for godly living. Understanding what the Bible is actually meant to be in our lives is essential for the Christian. Without this knowledge, we will lean to our own understanding. Without regular Bible study, we will never know God’s intended application.
Why should we come together for study (church vs. Bible class)? (Hebrews 10:23-27)
23 Let us hold fast the profession of our hope without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) 24 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: 25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. 26 For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, 27 But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour our adversaries.
If there were ever verses in the Bible that summed up the importance of both church and Bible classes, these are the verses. Often these Verses (particularly Verse 25) are used to stress the importance of coming to church as regularly as possible and fellowshipping with one another. But I’m always interested in the verses before and after what are considered focus verses.
When Verse 23 talks about holding fast to our hope without wavering, we need more than a fiery sermon on Sunday to do that. We need a deep understand of the Word in order to hold on to our hope. Sometimes that takes more than just the text the preacher used on that Sunday. Here’s a question I’ve often asked in classes I’ve taught: What do you plan to do if the sermon that Sunday had nothing to do with your current situation? Let that one marinate.
Verse 24 speaks to us encouraging one another in our good works. It not only speaks to the encouragement, but also to us holding one another accountable. What are we as a body of believers if we can’t or aren’t even willing to hold each other’s feet to the fire? We’ve gotten so caught up in who is and who isn’t judging us that we’ve rejected any form of Christian correction from our brothers and sisters in Christ. These are all the ways in which we can encourage one another in The Lord through studying together. And in case you haven’t noticed, according to what we’ve always believed about these Verses, we haven’t even made it to Sunday morning service yet (Verse 25).
Looking at Verse 26, we have a stern reminder that Jesus was the last sacrifice for our sins. If we reject Him, there’s nowhere else to turn. The judgment is coming for those that don’t believe and accept Jesus (Verse 27). So it should be upon us to study God’s Word just to know what is and isn’t pleasing in His sight. And while we love to get our shout on each Sunday morning when that choir sings our song or that preacher gets to the Cross, go back to that question I asked: If the man of God doesn’t speak directly to your situation on Sunday, what will you stand on until next Sunday? If he doesn’t hit that scripture that speaks directly to you for the next month, where will you turn to? If church isn’t fulfilling for you and the Word of God isn’t written in your heart from study and regularly assembling with those that do study, what will you do?
What you get in Bible class that you don’t get from Sunday morning service
Again, the vast majority of what God wants us to know isn’t given during Sunday morning service. It’s given in a class setting. Any preacher or pastor that’s honest will tell you that he can give you more in his teaching than he can in his preaching. As much as we preachers love to preach, we should all understand that preaching is just gravy, but teaching is the full meal.
How many movies would you be willing to see if every time you saw one, you were only told half the story? This is how so many Christians approach church on Sundays. Some come to church just for the singing, some come just for the preaching. What’s alarming is how few actually come back during the week for the study. Without knowing the meaning behind the sermon, you’re only getting half the story.
We all love a good sermon. Whether we’re preaching it or hearing it, we want to know that something was said that we can carry out of that church and on into the week as encouragement. But we mustn’t get so caught up in one phase of worship that we forget about the rest. We come on Sunday for the inspiration, but we need to be willing to come back to Bible class for the shaping.
We’ve fallen so in love with the Sunday morning shaking (praise and worship, singing, shouting, the preacher’s “whoop”) that we’ve forsaken the mid-week shaping that God wants to do in our lives. The potter wants to make us into a fully-formed masterpiece. Instead, we’re incomplete works of art.
We have many misinformed Christians in churches all across the world because they refuse to come to Bible class and really get an understanding of what the preacher is talking about from the pulpit on Sunday morning. Without Bible class, they misapply many scriptures that they hear on Sunday morning. They’re more likely to hold on to a clever line that the preacher said, rather than the application of the scripture that inspired that line. They’ve become what I call “catchphrase Christians”.
I submit to you that no matter how much you think you enjoyed that sermon on Sunday, you’d enjoy it a lot better if you had a deeper knowledge of the Word of God. The preacher would be a lot more enjoyable if you were aware of the fullness of the passage of scripture he preached from, things that a preacher sometimes can’t get to in 20 or 25 minutes.
There’s an old saying (and I apologize for not knowing whom to attribute it to) that says preaching pulls Christians out of the world, but the teaching pulls the world out of the Christian. Preachers often have to be clever and creative with their words in order to keep the congregation engaged. I’m not in any way suggesting that they lie, but no one wants to hear a boring sermon. So we have to say things that will excite the crowd as well as inspire and inform them about what God has in store for them. However, when we are preaching, we will inevitably hit some things in scripture that some in the congregation can’t quite comprehend. Because we’re in preaching mode, there’s no time for Q & A. We have to get out what God has put into us for that particular moment.
Church service is where you give more than you receive. You give worship for the majority of the day and you receive an inspired message from God through His preacher or maybe through a song from the choir. However, in Bible class, all you do is receive. You receive knowledge, you receive encouragement, you receive inspiration, and most of all, you receive instruction on Christian living.
Even songs about being in love or having your heart broken don’t completely make sense until we’ve actually experienced those things personally. The Word of God is similar in the fact that we not only have to go through some things in life in order to know how God can protect and keep us, but knowing how He wants us to live can help us to prevent some self-inflicted wounds that are common among Christians.
In the event that you feel that you can’t grow in your current church or you aren’t being fed, then it is upon you to look for a church that meets your needs. To stay in a church that doesn’t feed you and complain about being hungry, rather than going elsewhere to seek your spiritual nourishment, is spiritual suicide.
Now, let’s understand this completely. Be careful not to look for the church of agreement, the church of “just happy” or the church that never teaches you about sin because it may offend you. One of the most difficult things for us to do these days is to accept instruction in righteousness. No one wants to be told that they’re living wrong. In fact, people would rather hear that God is wrong before they’ll accept the fact that they’re wrong. We’ve become so independent of God’s Word that we’d rather not attend Bible class to hear a minister or a teacher tell us that we need to do better, even if they can support it with scripture.
People sometimes avoid Bible class because they don’t want to know if they’re not living right, but avoiding Bible class also causes us not to know what God does expect, how we can increase our blessings, why we should be thankful for current blessings and how to keep from hurting ourselves and then asking God why it’s happening.
For one to suggest that they can study just as well on their own is to suggest that they know enough about the Word of God that they don’t need any instruction from anyone. For one to engage in this type of thinking is to sell oneself short. Even the preacher still needs to be taught, lest he become complacent and arrogant.
2 Timothy 2:15 says: “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” This is a mandate for every Christian that wants to get closer to God. Don’t just trust the preacher, don’t just leave it at Sunday morning worship, don’t just download your Bible, you have to study! After all, how can God’s people propose to rightly divide the His Word if they have no desire to study outside of Sunday morning service?